“Too many couples spend more time planning their wedding than planning their marriage!”
My statement above pertains to all committed relationships, whether your commitment is recognized by God, religion, the government, the IRS or whether you don’t even care about validation from an outside source. My point is, to be successful you need to have a vision and a SHARED vision, one that you and your partner both have expressed to each other.
One of the first assignments I give to couples that meet me for relationship counseling is to create a “shared relationship vision.” Let me explain why I do this and more specifically what I mean by a “shared vision.”
We all have some ideas, some preconception, some notion of what kind of committed, romantic relationship we would like to have, whether the form looks like dating, co-habitation, marriage or some other path. These ideas have mainly been “implanted” into our unconscious by observing our primary caregivers (usually our parents), our extended family, our neighbors, our community, and of course, television and movies.
For “better or worse” we have this internalized vision, which is very related to what I’ve called in other articles and videos, the “Imago” which is Latin for “image.” The issue though, is that our intimate partner ALSO has an internalized vision of how they would like to live out their idealized relationship and the two visions might not be entirely compatible!
Unfortunately, most couples do not share very much of their individual vision prior to making a commitment and only find out over time that there are some bumps in the road. That’s usually when they come to see me or another psychologist or couples counselor.
One of my first tasks then, is to have them create the previously mentioned “shared relationship vision” which will merge both of their ideas for how they would like to share their lives together in order to build a deep, lasting partnership.
It gives couples a kind of roadmap to help them assess whether they are “on course” in their relationship, so that they can put in the necessary correction. This is important, as we don’t really have a good internalized GPS system to help us course correct and get us where we want to be.
So until there is “an app for that” we have to do it the old-fashioned way. While the process is straightforward, it takes a little bit of time and effort (and often a third party, such as myself) to organize and create the shared vision. That being said, if you’d like to try it on your own, the basic steps are as follows:
1. Each of you makes a separate list detailing YOUR vision of the relationship. Write it:
In the present tense.
In positive terms (what you want, not what you don’t want).
Use “We” statements
Examples might be:
“We go out one night each week without the children and enjoy a romantic dinner.”
“We resolve arguments by communicating clearly using the tools Dr. Sheck taught us.”
2. Write your list in all of the areas of relationship. This might include:
Romance & Sexuality
3. Verbally share your vision with your partner and then combine the lists into one master list, one “shared vision.”
The third step is often the most challenging, as it may very well involve a great deal of negotiation.